Forced to find a new home: UWO a temporary solution for Ukrainian lecturer


Patrick Flood

Courtesy of UW Oshkosh Today– Oksana Katsanivska started lecturing at UWO after having to leave her home and extended family in Ukraine due to the Russo-Ukrainian war. She said that although she enjoys working in the U.S., she only views this a “temporary measure.”

Anya Kelley, Assistant News Editor

Oksana Katsanivska has been living and teaching in the United States since she left her home in Iziaslav, Ukraine due to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

Katsanivska moved to Wisconsin with her husband and her two young children and has been living in Oshkosh on a work visa, teaching at UW Oshkosh. Before coming to the U.S., Katsanivska and her family had fled Ukraine to Sardinia, Italy. She said she never expected she’d be moving across the world due to the conflict.

“It was a coincidence,” Katsanivska said. “We went to Sarina because my husband used to work and live here and his mom works and lives there. So, it was the first place that came across our mind.” 

“We went there and then I got a call from Jordan Karsten, asking ‘would you like to teach at UWO?’” Katsanivska said. 

Karsten is an anthropology and global religion professor at UWO. Katsanivska did translation work for him while she was living in Ukraine. 

“Honestly, I thought he was talking about the online courses of Ukrainian language because that was at the time when Ukrainian was becoming extremely popular in the world, like everyone was interested in the language itself,” Katsanivska said. “I was like, well maybe it’s online courses. I can do that.”

Her husband questioned if she would have to move to the U.S. to teach, but she told him it was just online and contacted Karsten to tell him yes. When Karsten contacted her a few days later, she was surprised by his response. 

“He says ‘OK, we fixed it,’” Katsanivska said. “The university is going to sponsor your Visa.”

Now working at the university, Katsanivska said her days are 50/50. Some are good while others aren’t.

“It depends on the day, whether we are talking about me, my husband or our kids,” Katsanivska said. “It also depends on the situation in Ukraine, on the days when the news is bad from there.”

Katsanivska and her husband left their families at home.

“My parents are still there and my sister and her husband are there. He’s actually military,” Katsanivska said. “My husband’s father is in Ukraine. I’m not even talking about all the cousins, grandmoms and everyone.”

Katsanivska is now raising her two children in the U.S. Her son was only three when they left home.

“I would like to say that they love it here and they’re totally, you know, happy here,” Katsanivska said. “But I’m surprised [how] strong his connections [are] to home. Every, and I’m not exaggerating here, every day before he goes to bed, he keeps asking me when we are going to go back home.”

Her son remembers his friends back home and often asks Katsanivska when he can go play with them. 

He’s also worried about his dog and cat who are now living with Katsanivska’s parents. 

“He wants to go back to his house. He has his toys there,” Katsanivska said. “He’s OK with being here because his mom, dad and his sister are with him. But he misses home.”

Katsanivska and her family will be staying in Oshkosh for the spring semester. But one day, she hopes to go home, too.

“I don’t know what to tell you about the plans [for the future] because it’s this situation where it doesn’t depend on me,” she said. 

Katsanivska enjoys teaching at UWO, but only plans to continue teaching here until the time is right to return to Ukraine. 

“I [want to go home], I know my kids do, my husband does too,” Katsanivska said. “I look at this as [a] temporary measure.”